6,562 New COVID Cases in Israel, Testing Sites to Operate 24 Hours

Healthcare workers take test samples of Israelis in a drive-through complex to check if they have been infected with the coronavirus in Yerushalayim, on Sunday. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

The Health Ministry reported Monday that 6,562 people tested positive for coronavirus on Sunday – the highest number of daily infected since September.

With some 140,000 tests conducted, the national infection rate has also risen and now stands at 4.83% – another peak since September.

The pathogen’s R number – which indicates how many people on average one COVID patient infects – has also risen and now stands at 1.88, indicating a spread of the virus.

There are currently 203 COVID patients patients hospitalized across the country, of whom 110 are in critical condition and 37 are connected to ventilators.

Since the onset of the pandemic in Israel, some 8,244 people have succumbed to coronavirus-related complications.

Meanwhile, some coronavirus testing sites will operate 24 hours a day as of Monday in order to meet the surge in demand caused by the spread of the omicron variant.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett vowed Sunday during a special press conference to find a solution to the seemingly endless queues plaguing many of the country’s coronavirus testing centers amid a dramatic uptick in COVID cases.

Bennett’s outline to overcome the public’s rush to the testing complexes – spurred by health officials’ predictions that the spread of the new strain will peak in the coming weeks – hinges mainly on “reducing demand,” and not on expanding and reinforcing the testing centers.

“I ask everyone to show understanding and patience,” Bennett said in a press conference on Sunday. “If there are problems, and there are – like the long queues for tests – be assured that we will take care of them.”

“But the situation is that we have a huge amount of confirmed cases, all at once – above and beyond the reasonable capacity of the system. We are preparing to change the criteria for tests, in order to quickly reduce the heavy load,” he said.

According to a senior official in the Health Ministry, the new outline will seek to “exempt entire population groups from the need to get tested.”

And while the list of potential candidates for exemption has yet to be disclosed, it seems the ministry aims to exempt from testing all those who have been vaccinated in case of exposure to a verified patient.

“It is possible we will set a criterion that only people over the age of 60 and those who have symptoms will be sent to get tested,” said the source, who added that “the queues in Israel are shorter than queues abroad, but Israelis do not know how to stand in line.”

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